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Did Biden pass or fail? Former presidential speechwriters grade the State of the Union address

Grading President Biden: Former presidential speech writers weigh in on the State of the Union address and whether the attacks on Trump were too political

Saddled with negative approval ratings and trailing former President Trump in the latest polling average of their general election rematch, President Biden went for the jugular in prime time Thursday evening as he delivered the State of the Union address with eight months to go until the November showdown.

Biden early and often took aim at Trump, whom he only referred to as "his predecessor," and also fired numerous salvos at Republican lawmakers sitting directly in front of him as the president delivered his address to a joint session of Congress.

"My predecessor, a former Republican President, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want,’" Biden charged three minutes into his speech. It was the first of thirteen references to Trump, who this week became the GOP's presumptive nominee.

While Democrats applauded the tone and tenor of the president's address, Republicans savaged the speech for crossing the line.


"This was the most partisan State of the Union I’ve heard in my lifetime," said Bill McGurn, who served as chief speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush.

"No outreach to Republicans, and the clear message was this: the era of big government is back, with a vengeance," added McGurn, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member and columnist as well as a Fox News contributor.


Marc Theissen, who also served as a speechwriter for Bush, argued Biden's speech was an "utter disgrace."

"Attacking his opponent directly in the first minutes of his speech is unprecedented and perhaps the most partisan start to a State of the Union address in modern memory," Theissen emphasized in a social media posting.

It was a very different take from Dan Cluchey, who served as a speechwriter for the president in the Biden White House.

"With energy and vigor, the President laid out the clear choice facing America — a choice between two starkly different visions for our future.  Will we expand freedom, or restrict it?  Will we defend democracy, or attack it?  Will we continue to grow the economy for all, or rig it on behalf of billionaires and the wealthiest corporations?  President Biden made it crystal clear where he stands — and he did it while commanding the room with equal parts sharp oratory, disarming banter, and matter-of-fact moral authority," Cluchey told Fox News.

And Cluchey argued that "State of the Union addresses don't get better than this."

Longtime Democratic consultant Maria Cardona told Fox News "the contrast with Trump was brilliant and scathing. He pulled no punches, told the truth, and he was everything he needed to be." 

"Of course, Republicans thought it was too political. If that’s their only criticism, they know he had a homer, and they have nowhere else to go," added Cardona, a Democratic National Committee member and veteran of multiple presidential campaigns.

Cardona argued that the president "was energetic, direct, funny, eloquent, and he laid out his accomplishments clearly and relevantly, connecting them with peoples’ lives."

McGurn agreed that the 81-year-old Biden "was vigorous, more than we’ve recently seen."

But he added that the address "had a get-off-my-lawn-you-rotten-kids! quality to it."

And Clark Judge, who served as a speechwriter for the late President Ronald Reagan, concurred that Biden's address "sounded angry. For its force, it depended upon him basically shouting and projecting outrage."

And he charged that the speech was "a laundry list of bad solutions for the problems he [Biden] caused."

Biden used a portion of his address to spotlight the economic rebound during his tenure in the White House.

"I inherited an economy that was on the brink," Biden noted before touting "now our economy is the envy of the world." 

And he spotlighted that "wages keep going up and inflation keeps coming down!"

But poll after poll indicates that Americans aren't giving the president much credit for the easing in inflation. 

And Biden went on offense against Trump and congressional Republicans on another issue where he's politically vulnerable, the crisis at the nation's southern border.

But Colin Reed, a veteran Republican strategist, said that when it came to the economy and the border, "both were buried deep within the confines of the speech."

"On the two most important issues, he whiffed big time," said Reed, a campaign veteran who served as a top adviser this cycle on a super PAC supporting former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's 2024 GOP nomination bid.

Biden is the oldest president in the nation's history. And polls indicate a majority of Americans harbor serious questions about his physical and mental ability to handle another four years in the White House.

"I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while. And when you get to my age, certain things become clearer than ever before," Biden quipped near the end of his address.

Seasoned Democratic strategist and communicator Chris Moyer acknowledged that the president "can’t stick his head in the sand and pretend voters don’t know he’s old, and this was the first time he took on his age directly. It was smart to do so, and I think he’ll refine this more and more over the course of the campaign."

And Moyer, who's served on multiple Democratic presidential campaigns, noted that "this was more campaign speech and less State of the Union address." But he argued that Biden "did what he needed to do, showing a fighting spirit and hitting many of the expected notes on popular issues."

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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